Flintoff's nose broken as jinx strikes again

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The Independent Online

Andrew Flintoff's return to Pakistan has not been a happy experience. Less than 12 hours after landing in the country he left two weeks ago, a local net bowler broke the all-rounder's nose. As injuries go it was not debilitating, but, with England suffering a spate of them in the build-up to today's first Test, the timing of it was cruel.

Andrew Flintoff's return to Pakistan has not been a happy experience. Less than 12 hours after landing in the country he left two weeks ago, a local net bowler broke the all-rounder's nose. As injuries go it was not debilitating, but, with England suffering a spate of them in the build-up to today's first Test, the timing of it was cruel.

Flown out as cover for Michael Vaughan, whose pulled calf muscle prevented him from making this morning's starting XI. Flintoff had just about finished his net when he tried to hook a short ball. Too early on his shot, the ball apparently passed between the grille and the helmet to strike him on the bridge of his nose.

"The ball wasn't that quick, but there was a lot of blood," Flintoff said. An X-ray at the local hospital revealed a crack, though this was not considered serious enough for him to withdraw his availability for today's match.

From the moment he received the call to arms, Flintoff's journey has alternated between high and black comedy. To start with, a stricken lorry, which caused massive tailbacks on the M25, led to his flight from Heathrow being delayed.

When he arrived in Lahore at 1am in the morning, there were no rooms available in the team hotel, which had been overbooked. Apart from problems locating his luggage, Flintoff was eventually given a camp bed in a less than salubrious over-spill room at about 4am.

At burly fellow of 6ft 4in, Flintoff found the bed too small and had to place the mattress on the floor in order to snatch some sleep. Yet, despite the discomfort, he was down to breakfast just after nine, where he received a standing ovation from his team-mates. An hour later, though, he was training and, two hours after that, no doubt feeling a little weary, he misjudged the fateful hook shot.

In his pre-match press conference yesterday, Nasser Hussain appeared convinced that not much more could go wrong. "It's sods law that the bloke flying out gets hit on the beak at the end of his net," he said, trying hard to sound upbeat in the face of some astonishing bad luck. And yet he will feel even more jinxed if he loses the toss, which, with the pitch certain to help spin, will be crucial. Yet, England's injury list aside, Hussain has no complaints about the conditions.

"We have enough experience in our side to be able to adapt, whatever the surface does," the England captain said. "We're certainly not going to sit and grumble about the pitch. After all, where we come from, we can't really complain about pitches."

England's ability to play and bowl spin is nevertheless is going to come under severe examination. At the moment, that ability is in question and despite this Test being scheduled for five days, the locals reckon it will be done and dusted by Saturday.

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